`I fell in love with opera - it was the best of everything'

revelations: harvey goldsmith

The time: 1986

The place: London

The man: Harvey Goldsmith - promoter and producer

"I WAS in the middle of booking a tour for Bruce Springsteen when his manager phoned to tell me Bruce had changed his mind and wanted Wembley Stadium. Previously he had not believed in open-air concerts so I had already paid the rent for 11 days at Earls Court. I had two months to find something else - impossible. So as we sat in the office panicking, I thought `maybe there is life outside rock'n'roll. What about a classical spectacular? I started ringing round all the orchestras and much to my horror they all laughed when I asked if they were available in July. They were booked three years in advance!

So we started to rack our brains about the kind of music we could perform. There were no big rock'n'roll acts around and I kept homing in on the classical field - thinking it had a wide listenership but an untested audience. One of the guys in the office had heard about an opera singer called Pavarotti who had just done a concert at Madison Square Gardens and suggested we checked him out. I had never heard of him but told my staff to book him. I was quite interested in opera but knew very little about it.

Unfortunately Pavarotti's manager questioned the validity of my being alive, let alone what right I had to pick up the phone and call him! Now I really was desperate, we were almost thinking of going to car boot sales to raise the money! However the animosity only served to make me more determined. So I kept pursuing, ultimately his manager said: `why should I work with people like you?' I replied: `How about money?' There was a silence and finally: `how much?' `How much do you need?' I told him stars in the classical world should be capable of earning the same sort of money as the Rolling Stones.

Ultimately I did not find anything for Earls Court - I had to eat the rent, but it made me very determined about classical music. Pavarotti's manager finally gave me a date in August the next year at Wembley. Not only did my contemporaries think I was mad, but the arts and classical press were virulently against me: "How dare this upstart get involved in our business and how dare he put someone as precious as Pavarotti on somewhere like that!" To be honest, they were horrible. But the concert was a huge success. We drew 9,500 people. Watching the audience I realised that here was another art form which was under-exposed. Pavarotti was ecstatic and took my mother and father into his dressing room and closed the door and sung two arias to them. I didn't know what was going on, so when my mother came out weeping and I asked: `what on Earth is the matter?' She replied: `my whole life has changed.'

I started going to opera and found it very exciting. It was a meld of the best of everything: a great story, beautiful music and singers with normally very interesting productions. I thought if I could expand this into a large space it would make an incredible spectacle. I wasn't brave enough to create my own production but bought one in from Verona, much to my amazement we sold 32,000 tickets in the first week and the final total was 127,000. Two years' worth in the Royal Opera house! After 20 years in the business, of all the shows I've been involved in, the first night of Carmen gave me the greatest thrill, my dream of creating a sun drenched oasis of Spain in the middle of Earls Court had come true.

I've learnt a lot about myself from moving into opera. I'm far more excited about producing than promoting, I now see myself as an impresario rather than somebody who just books dates and sells tickets.

Now I'm putting on Aida at Earls Court, which hopefully will be an annual event. I like this production because it is on a grand scale, with clever production technology which is almost 3D. We will be able to project the Pyramids and the Sphinx and the boat scene to create a spectacle in a much more vivid way than just shifting scenery around. The time feels right that these large-scale operas should return. I'm afraid I rarely enjoy my events - my favourite moment is always the reaction of the audience and the buzz as they leave. I hope that the response to Aida will be good because I'm passionate about introducing audiences to something I've got so much out of myself.

Interview by Andrew G Marshall

Aida is at Earls Court for three performances - 23, 24 and 25 April. Box office 0171 373 8141

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

    £16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

    Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

    £30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

    £13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

    £16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

    Day In a Page

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence